Online Courses in Oceanography

Discover the topics you might study online in undergraduate, graduate and certificate oceanography courses. Find out how you can use these courses, and how online coursework in Oceanography works. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Topics Are Covered Online in Oceanography Courses?

Through online oceanography courses, you'll explore the factors that affect an ocean's temperature, currents, and salinity. You might study the biology and evolutionary history of different marine animals, including sharks and rays. Some courses examine the physical and chemical properties of the ocean and the relationship between the ocean and the atmosphere. Some courses explore the negative repercussions of human activity on the marine ecosystem. You'll learn how altering personal habits may have a positive impact on the health of the world's oceans.

Depending on the degree or certificate program, you might also study some or all of the following topics:

Introduction to Oceanography

Introductory classes in oceanography may introduce you to the geological, physical, biological and chemical properties of oceanography. You will typically read from online text, complete writing assignments, take quizzes, and discuss lessons that involve a more in-depth study of the topic.

Geography of the World's Oceans

In class, you will likely study shore-line processes and the ocean floor. You will study ocean basins, continents, and geologic features of the ocean, and learn the differences between ocean basins and seas. You may be introduced to plate tectonics, seamounts, volcanoes, and deep trenches and how they affect, shape, and reshape the ocean floor.


Paleoceanography classes teach the history and evolution of the oceans with regard to geology, sedimentation, chemistry, biology, circulation, and biological productivity. Topics covered may include water temperature, salinity, ocean circulation, ocean-surface temperature, and alkalinity properties of the ocean.

Tropical Ecosystems

Coursework may include coastal zone management, study of coral reefs, managing coastal ecosystems, and problems ocean ecosystems are facing from overfishing, ocean warming, and coastal pollution. Lectures may also include techniques used to remedy these problems.

Physical Oceanography

Topics studied in class may include the study of the physical properties of seawater, abyssal and wind-driven ocean circulation, wave motions, the physical description of the ocean, methods and measurements, and boundary processes. You may also study topics like how the earth's gravity affects sea levels and global climatology.

At What Level Are Courses Available?

Online oceanography courses are available at both the undergraduate and graduate level, as well as certificate programs. Most courses are offered through Bachelor or Master of Science in Oceanography programs. Courses available at the master's level - and some undergraduate courses - are offered individually and may count towards a degree. However, most programs are not fully available online and may require some field work on location.

How Do Online Courses Work?

Some online courses in oceanography require extensive reading. Lectures are often video- or audio-based, although some may only be available in text format. You can follow lectures on your own time, but there are usually deadlines that you must meet for submitting writing assignments and taking weekly quizzes. You will also engage in lessons that involve research and in-depth studies on the topic of oceanography. While online, you may interact with your classmates and professors through discussion boards, webchat applications, or e-mail.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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